Subscriber OnlyYour Wellness

Dating with mental illness: ‘I wouldn’t feel pressured into disclosing until you decide you are comfortable’

Determining when and how much to tell a date can be a minefield in the already fraught world of online dating

Living with a mental health condition is difficult enough without having to worry about disclosing that illness to others. The fear of judgment or ridicule can be so debilitating it can force those who struggle mentally to live in secrecy.

So how can people who want to discuss their mental condition go about doing so – particularly, singletons trying to navigate the emotionally taxing world of modern dating?

Psychotherapist and couples therapist Sarah Condron says the rate at which a person discloses their mental health condition to a potential love interest is contingent on how relevant that information is to the development of that relationship. “For instance, if someone asks you on a date to the pub and you have severe social anxiety or addiction issues, this becomes relevant immediately,” she says. “At the same time, if you have a diagnosed disorder that doesn’t impact your ability to socialise, then this may not be relevant so early on.

“If you have a disorder that impacts your mood in a cycle every few weeks, then I imagine it would be appropriate to mention this within that time period, so the person has time to digest it and choose whether it’s something they are comfortable going forward with. And if you have experienced trauma from sexual assault, I would suggest that this is disclosed before you have sex – but I wouldn’t feel pressured into disclosing until you decide you are comfortable.”


During the summer, the dating app Bumble launched a mental health feature that encourages users to create an open dialogue around mental health before meeting in person. However, Donal Reilly, a family therapist with Centric Mental Health says posting information regarding a person’s mental health condition on a dating profile can send the wrong message to certain users.

I think that there’s subtle ways that you can ask a few questions or bring up the topic in kind of a more general way just to gauge somebody’s response to it - so are they empathetic, sympathetic

—  Donal Reilly, a family therapist

“I think there are a lot of people that publicly speak about their own personal experience of anxiety, depression or other mental health difficulties, but it’s complex because there are a few parts to it, because they could unwittingly find themselves being the go-to for questions or queries about mental health issues. That can be a bit overwhelming.

“But as long as they’ve come through a crisis point and they’re feeling quite secure and stable themselves, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a definite no-no on it, because at the end of the day, it’s completely up to any individual what they disclose online or in person.”

Although the Kildare-based therapist isn’t opposed to people including their mental health condition on their dating profile, he says that those who choose to wait to discuss it in person should allow trust to develop first. “Some people might go out on the first date and they decide that’s how they want to share it, and it’s their story to tell. But I suppose for somebody who’s questioning that, if they’re wondering when is the best time, I think allowing that trust to develop slowly and taking those small steps.

“I think that there’s subtle ways that you can ask a few questions or bring up the topic in kind of a more general way just to gauge somebody’s response to it – so are they empathetic, sympathetic. Do they have a personal experience of it?

“I know it’s not the same for every person, but if somebody has some kind of an understanding – even if it’s not directly themselves, they could have a friend a previous partner or a family member – so you’re just listening out for those supportive cues that say this is a safe place to share this piece of information.”

Mental health activist and community youth worker Blessing Dada has been single for two years. She’s been living with anxiety and depression since her adolescent years, and is currently being medicated for both.

The 23-year-old, who has used dating app Hinge, says that while she doesn’t feel she owes anyone an explanation about her conditions, she does find herself discussing mental health issues at the early stages of getting acquainted with someone. “I usually find myself already talking about it on the first date as my interests – including mental health advocacy work – would be highlighted on my profile, so the transaction from online to in-person is smooth,” she says.

“I feel free to tell them only what I’m comfortable with, so whether it’s just the name of my illness or some of my symptoms. I have the full discussion in my own time, if I see potential in the date going further.”

Dada, who is based in Dublin, says the vast majority of her conversations around mental illness have gone exceptionally well, and, while nothing romantic has come from those dates, there was one in particular that developed into a meaningful friendship. “To be honest, I haven’t had any negative experiences so far. Maybe due to the cost of living, national housing and healthcare crisis, we all find ourselves struggling.

“Although nothing continued romantically after my first date with someone I matched with on Hinge, our conversations on mental health, our upbringing and the political sphere that shape people’s struggle, fostered a cool friendship.”

A recent survey found that 22 per cent of women on dating apps use it to make a friend, compared with 14 per cent of men. But whatever the reasons, the impact of dating apps on those who already struggle mentally can be detrimental, says Condron, as they can further exacerbate the symptoms people already struggle with.

“I think there is a lot of pressure to present a false version of themselves and be more theoretical about it rather than looking for natural authentic connection and craic – which happens in meeting someone in a natural environment face-to-face. This can only add to the anxiety around dating.”